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What Are Blackeye Peas?


  • Originated in Africa
  • Eaten for good luck on New Year’s Day
  • A key ingredient in soul food and northern Indian cuisine

Scientific Name: Vigna Unguiculata

The Blackeye Pea Story

Blackeye peas, also called “cowpeas,” originated in Africa and have been cultivated in China and India since prehistoric times. The ancient Greeks and Romans actually preferred blackeye peas to chickpeas. Presumably brought to the Americas from Africa, blackeye peas are an important ingredient in soul food and other American Southern cuisines. Along with kidney beans and chickpeas, they are a key protein source in African and northern Indian cuisine.

In the American South, blackeye peas are eaten with cabbage, turnip or collard greens, and pork and rice on New Year’s Day. This dish, called Hoppin’ John (which some say is derived from this legume’s French name, pois pigeon) is thought to bring wealth: The peas are said to symbolize coins and the greens, paper money. In Nigeria, they are cooked as a bean cake called moin-moin and batter-fried into a fritter called akara.

Our favorite Blackeye Pea links:
Are Black-Eyed Peas Really Peas?
Ushering in the New Year with Special Foods
How to Cook Beans and Peas
How to Soak Your Beans
Blackeye Pea Recipes
Camellia Brand Blackeye Peas